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State and local officials cut ribbon on reopened I-59/20 bridges

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From left: Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson; Gov. Kay Ivey; DeJarvis Leonard, regional engineer of ALDOT-East Central Region; State Sen. Rodger Smitherman and Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)
By Donna Cope
Alabama NewsCenter

After a year of repair work, the I-59/20 bridges curving through downtown Birmingham will re-open to traffic by Tuesday, January 21, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation. (ABC 33/40)

State and local officials on Friday cut the ribbon on the new Interstate 59/20 interchange.

Celebrating the completion of the city’s $700 million Bridge Replacement Project, Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) representatives and civic leaders took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the interchange. Ivey praised the team effort by ALDOT, contract firm Johnson Brothers Corp., and state and city leaders instrumental in the yearlong work.

Ivey said the state’s infrastructure is an important factor in maintaining Alabama’s economic participation and production.

The governor noted that the rehabilitation of Alabama’s bridges and infrastructure creates thousands of jobs each year and provides a more attractive appearance, encouraging businesses to relocate and to expand in the state.

“To the ladies and gentlemen of the city of Birmingham, I want to thank you all for your patience, and your help with this as we have been trying hard to finish before the deadline,” Ivey said. “You’ve been a great asset to the effort, and I am grateful.

“All of these bridges were 45 years old,” she said. “Now, when they were built, they were designed to carry a capacity of 80,000 vehicles a day. Well, here we are today, and there’s over 160,000 vehicles traveling on these roads.”

City of Birmingham Transportation Director James Fowler attended for Mayor Randall Woodfin, who was out of town. Fowler said city leaders are thankful for the magnitude of the investment in Birmingham.

“We are grateful for ALDOT’s efforts in communities with our residents and to people present,” Fowler said. “We are grateful for relationships we’ve built in this process, and we’re grateful to the workers and the large personal investment and sacrifices they made to this huge project.”

Alabama Sen. Rodger Smitherman said he is thrilled to see the completion of the interchange. He said that the new roadways will make travel safer for residents and visitors.

“This interchange will be a new standard moving forward,” Smitherman said. “I commend Governor Ivey, who recognized the need for upgrading, and for all of her work on this project. This will move our region forward. It was a monumental task.”

From left: Jefferson County Commissioners Sheila Tyson and Joe Knight; Gov. Kay Ivey; Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales and DeJarvis Leonard, regional engineer of ALDOT-East Central Region. (Provided Photo)

DeJarvis Leonard, regional engineer of ALDOT-East Central Region, said more than 500 workers were onsite throughout the project.

“We want to thank all of the workers who came early and stayed late, taking away time from their family to complete this on time,” Leonard said. “They endured long hours to make this project happen. We are grateful to God for the success of this project.”

Johnson Brothers beat its March 21, 2020, deadline by about two months. Every day the bridges are open before the deadline, the contract firm gets a $250,000 per day bonus, with a maximum bonus of $15 million.

Johnson Brothers Operations Manager Mike Brown called the job “unprecedented,” saying his team met the challenge of restoring I-59/20 in “just shy of a year.”

“We set a world record for safety in this given time span,” said Brown, a project manager at Johnson Brothers for about six years. “I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of our people, the men and women who poured their hearts and souls into making this happen. Without these folks, clearly this wouldn’t be possible. Tremendous execution and planning went into this, so much sacrifice. We are elated and ready to see the roads open. I’m ready to share this moment with my team. They’ve put a lot into this. It’s a long time coming.

“I’m excited for the residents, the locals and the traveling public that comes through here,” he said. “I hope that people will be proud of the structures here – I think they will be. … I think they’re the best in Alabama.”

Also in attendance were Birmingham City Council President William Parker and members of the City Council and Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens and members of the County Commission.